By Rick Hoff
(CARLSBAD, CALIFORNIA) -- Two thrilling finishes in the men’s and women’s invitational races capped a fast day of road racing Sunday at the 26th annual Carlsbad 5000.
Considered one of the fastest 5-kilometer races in the U.S., the Carlsbad 5000 didn’t disappoint as a pair of Ethiopians outkicked their rivals from Kenya in each of the elite races.
Defending men’s champion Eluid Kipchoge, 26, of Kenya, led for most of the men’s race before Ethiopia’s Dejen Gebremeskel, 21, made a late surge within the final 100 meters to claim victory while reversing the finish of a year ago.
“I just felt more power at the finish line,” said Gebremeskel, whose winning time of 13 minutes, 11 seconds was three seconds faster than that of Kipchoge. The Kenyan won last year’s race with the same time of 13:11, which is the fourth fastest time run on the Carlsbad course. Gebremeskel was the runner-up to Kipchoge then, but he moved up one spot on the podium this time around.
“I felt more confidence this time,” said Gebremeskel, who was ranked No. 4 in the world last year for the 5,000 meters on the track, where he has a personal best of 12:53.56.
Women’s winner Aheza Kiros, 28, of Ethiopia used a similar strategy in her race, drafting behind Kenya’s Pauline Korikwiang before making a late move to secure her second win here in three attempts.
“I love this race,” said Kiros, whose time of 15:13 was just enough to edge Korikwiang by one second. The Kenyan was running Carlsbad for the first time.
“This is a fantastic race,” said Korikwiang, 23. “There are people cheering for you in every corner.”
There were plenty of spectators cheering on the age-group races as well. A huge roar along the home stretch of Carlsbad Village Drive accompanied Sergio Gonzalez as he raced to victory in the Men’s 29-and-under race. The Oceanside resident was the only North County runner to win any of the seven age-group races.
“I felt strong out there,” said Gonzalez, a former NAIA All-American in track at Cal State San Marcos. “I was just two or three seconds off my P.R.”
Another Oceanside resident, Anne Garrett, lowered her own American age-group record with her performance in the Masters Women race. Garrett, 77, finished with a time of 25:59, which eclipsed her own previous best American 5K time for the women’s 75-79 age group of 26:12, which she set here last year.
“I wasn’t thinking of any records this morning, but once I started running, I was feeling good,” Garrett said.
A former racewalker, Garrett said she has been running for only about five years.
“I started running on my 72nd birthday,” she said. “Carlsbad was the first race I ever did.”
In February, Garrett celebrated her 77th birthday by winning her age group at the USA Cross Country Championships at Mission Bay. She won $600 that day for placing second on the women’s age-grade percentage table.
“It pays to get old,” she quipped.
The Carlsbad 5000 attracted more than 8,500 entries. The day of racing began with Christian Cushing-Murray of Santa Ana winning for the third straight year in the Masters Men race. Former UCLA standout Tanya Fischer of Santa Monica outkicked Kathleen Jobes of Bethlehem, Pa., in the Masters Women race, where both runners finished with a time of 17:24.
The Carlsbad 5000 had a prize purse of $67,000, with $5,000 going to men’s and women’s invitational champions and $1,000 going to the Masters winners.